The Recommendations: Books

All of us find ourselves navigating life with chronic illness in some form or fashion. Whether it is something that afflicts our own body or that of someone we love, we all can find help and hope from other voices. 

There are a great number of published books available to cover a myriad of health questions and concerns. Some I have found incredibly useful–whether they pertain to heart health or otherwise–and others I think have tried too hard to be inspirational/motivational for their stressed audience. 

I dove into a number of books regarding chronic illness this past year. These three rose to the top as ones that spoke to my figurative and literal heart in 2018. They were all found at a local library–thank you, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library!–which is another great resource I recommended for those of us dealing with The Finances I talked about in an earlier post.

I want to acknowledge up front that all three authors I am highlighting are North American white women of privilege. Being a North American white woman of privilege, I see myself in their stories and can relate on levels of social expectations and access to care. While I think we can (and should!) glean information from all peoples, I realize these particular stories will not be useful for everyone. I also realize it is exponentially more difficult to publish a book if you are a person lacking access to health care or struggling to find the financial/emotional/mental help you need to survive. All of our stories are important to share and I hope to help those with a quieter voice find a way to be heard louder.

For the Spiritual Reader

Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity by Marva Dawn

Marva Dawn is a well-published theologian who discusses her chronic health experience through the lens of Christian faith. This is a scholarly book that addresses difficult questions of faith and suffering: How do we recognize God in time of illness? How does God respond to human frailty? How do we in the Church encourage our ailing brothers and sisters? She conveys vast biblical knowledge while still leaving room for personal growth and experience.

For the Practical Reader

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver

Courtney Carver is one of the best-known promoters of simple living and is the creator of Project 333, a challenge toward a minimalist wardrobe. Her most recent book is part-memoir, part-self-help and is full of practical ideas to make life easier in the midst of chronic illness. She tackles the ins and outs of simplifying daily life dilemmas involving finances, household, and other routines to create space for recovery. Each chapter closes in a centering exercise to encourage personal reflection and action toward habitual changes.

Courtney’s blog and pro tips can be read at

For the Optimistic Reader

Everything Happens For a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler

Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School who shares her journey as a wife, mother, and cancer patient through her blog, podcast, and this book. Her humor and optimism make talking about pain and death much more relatable (and, dare I say, enjoyable!) and gives her readers the chance to question the meaning behind pain. Spoiler alert: She is not convinced everything happens for a reason and takes a look at God as a fighter alongside us in our disease as opposed to the reason behind our suffering.

Kate’s podcast and other musings are found at

Whose words have helped you in your season with illness? Please share your book recommendations in the comments!

2 thoughts on “The Recommendations: Books

  1. Caitlin, I agree that not all books are for everyone. That being said, I have a very dogearred book I love. “Where is God When it Hurts by Phillip Yancy.

    Liked by 1 person

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